If you have concerns about your FSH levels, you must work to manage your stress! We know stress adversely affects fertility and reproductive health for many people. High stress upsets hormonal balance and can make conception difficult, especially if you’re dealing with other fertility challenges. One major way stress may impact your fertility health is by causing changes in FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels. FSH levels play an important role in follicle development and egg quality for women. If FSH levels are imbalanced, a woman may skip ovulation or menstruation, or may not be eligible for an IVF cycle, all of which can, in turn, add to one’s fertility stress.
How Stress Affects FSH Levels
In the body, FSH production is signaled by the pituitary gland in response to GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) pulses from the hypothalamus. FSH production stimulates the ovaries, causing an increase in estrogen, which encourages follicle production and maturation. As the follicle readies for ovulation, FSH production naturally decreases and LH (luteinizing hormone) production picks up.
However, if the body is under chronic high stress, what it perceives as “nonessential” systems (like reproduction) cease to function at their peak. The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovary Axis (HPO) that regulates fertility hormones like FSH is directly impacted. Imbalanced cortisol levels from high stress cause changes in hormone levels, libido, and the menstrual cycle. FSH levels may unnaturally increase or plummet, affecting the normal maturation process of the follicle.
“In humans, chronic stress can lead to a drop in sex drive as well as a drop in fertility. Even the stress of infertility treatments can block their effectiveness, as evidenced by many anecdotes about couples conceiving children after the failure of assisted reproduction, ” University of California, Berkely, researchers share.
Other factors that disrupt healthy FSH levels…
Stress is not the only factor that can affect FSH and fertility. “The thing is… the delicate balance between the hypothalamus and pituitary is vulnerable to stress, obesity, diet, exercise, and many other factors,” notes Fertility Coach and Cognitive Hypnotherapist Russell Davis, founder of The Fertile Mind fertility mind-body programs and coaching. Then, as a woman nears menopause, her FSH levels elevate and the number of healthy follicles declines. In response to the reduced number of follicles, the pituitary gland produces even more FSH to try to force ovulation, often unsuccessfully. Premature Ovarian Failure (referred to POF or premature menopause) can also lead to high FSH levels.
These factors can also lead to FSH imbalance:
- poor blood flow to the ovaries
- pituitary gland tumor
- being severely underweight as with some eating disorders
- over-training or over-exercise
- Turner syndrome
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
Learn more: FSH Levels and Your Fertility
Naturally Manage Stress and Encourage Healthy FSH levels
If you’re concerned stress may be affecting your FSH levels, give yourself permission to take a break from fertility treatments and therapies to focus on your mind-body health. If there is no other cause for low or high FSH levels, decreasing stress may be all that is needed to help hormone levels normalize.
Many clients we work with find their FSH levels and fertility improves by making a commitment to practice daily stress management techniques. Here are a few of my favorite choices:
- massage therapy
- spending time in nature
- using calming herbs (Maca, Ashwagandha and Schisandra are a few)
- reducing work hours or taking a vacation
We recommend retesting your FSH levels in 2-3 months after consistently practicing stress management therapies. This will give you a good idea of whether stress could be linked to your FSH imbalance or fertility challenge. Wherever you’re at in your program, managing stress is important for hormone balance and natural fertility.
- Hunter, A. (2018). High FSH. Dr. Alison Hunter. Retrieved from: http://www.dralisonhunter.com/treatable-conditions/high-fsh/
- Elevated FSH. (2018). Nurture Acupuncture. Retrieved from: https://nurtureacupuncture.com/fertility-womens-health/elevated-fsh/
- Davis, R. (2018). Stress and Fertility. The Fertile Mind. Retrieved from: http://thefertilemind.net/stress-and-fertility/
- Stress Puts Double Whammy On Reproductive System, Fertility. (2009). Science Daily. University of California – Berkeley. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090615171618.htm
- Uddin, Rae. (2017, Aug.). Cortisol Imbalance Symptoms. Livestrong. Retrieved from: https://www.livestrong.com/article/94310-cortisol-imbalance-symptoms/